Gulf illnesses to come under a new
By PAULINE JELINEK
Web-posted: 7:20 a.m. Oct. 28, 2000
WASHINGTON -- The
Pentagon is reversing itself on who was exposed to nerve gas during
the Persian Gulf War, and who was not.
30,000 Gulf War veterans are to be notified in the next few weeks
that they probably came in contact with low levels of sarin nerve
gas after being told in 1997 that they had escaped exposure.
About 30,000 thought to have been exposed will
get letters saying they probably were not.
"These are very low levels -- low enough that there is no
expectation of a health risk," Austin Camacho, spokesman for the
Pentagon's office on Gulf War illnesses, said
Still, the revision will again "raise
questions of credibility" among critics of the government's now
decade-long effort to answer health questions of vets who served,
said Dr. Vinh Cam, an immunologist and member of the Special
Oversight Board for Department of Defense Investigation of Gulf War
Chemical and Biological Incidents.
chairman, former Sen. Warren Rudman, said the revision proved the
"It shows [Pentagon officials] have
tried very hard, with all the evidence, to come back and
re-evaluate," he said.
"Does it mean any more
people are ill? So far there is no evidence of
The revision in who was exposed is
based on better information on such details as weather and troop
locations, said oversight board spokesman Roger
The issue in question for veterans is
what was the health effect -- and how many people were exposed to it
-- when U.S. forces demolished Iraqi munitions and rockets at the
Khamisiyah weapons depot in March 1991. It turned out some of the
rockets contained highly toxic sarin and the even more lethal
cyclosarin chemical warfare agents that paralyze the nerves,
shutting down the lungs and other organs.
review of work done and still under way on a number of Gulf War
studies, Bernard Rostker, Pentagon undersecretary for personnel,
told the oversight board in its last public session Friday that
officials in the coming weeks will release a report revising figures
on which of the troops deployed in the depot area might have been
The report is to be announced in mid-
to late November, and letters will be sent the day of the
announcement to 110,000 troops who were in and around the area of
Khamisiyah, Pentagon officials said.
number, about 99,000 were told in 1997 letters that they were
thought to have been exposed and 11,000 told that they were
Although those numbers remain the same,
the specific people thought exposed has changed because the new
study uses better information in areas including weather and troop
locations, Kaplan said.
A study last year
concluded that veterans exposed to sarin and cyclosarin in the war
had no more health problems than those not exposed and so the gas
isn't necessarily to blame for illnesses reported by thousands of
Gulf War vets.
Kirt Love, a critic of
government handling of Gulf War illness studies who says he is a
disabled veteran from the war, blasted the Pentagon after hearing
the news at Friday's meeting. "They are still concealing records,"
Gulf War illness symptoms include
memory problems, nervous system disorders, fatigue and